The Adjustment Bureau: Who’s in charge here?

Posted: October 18, 2011 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Action, Drama
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I’m not sure if I have ever heard God described as “The Chairman” before–the “Man Upstairs” or “The Big Boss,” yes, but the Chairman is a new one to me.  And, angels as hat (rather than halo) wearing “Adjustment” bureaucrats?  That’s unique too.  Such is the world of The Adjustment Bureau–the latest movie attempt to deal with the much-debated conflict between man’s free will and God’s sovereignty.  It is a movie that is tailor-made for discussions about this essential theological issue.

The Adjustment Bureau centers on David Norris (Matt Damon), a rising political star, who ends up falling deeply in love with a mystery woman named Elise (Emily Blunt).  Unfortunately for this love-struck couple, this relationship is against The Chairman’s “plan” for their  individual lives.  The Chairman wants David to be president of the United States (too bad for him) and Elise to be a famous dancer.  For a variety of reasons, David and Elise cannot stay together and achieve this soveriegn plan.  So “adjustors” are dispatched by the Chairman to alter their paths so they will never end up together “happily ever after.”

But, by a freak series of mishaps, the veil is pulled back and David learns of the behind-the-scenes manipulations of The Chairman and his minions.  This leads to a lengthy battle (chase scene style) between the “free will” of David and the “sovereign plan for his life” of the Chairman.  You’ll have to watch the movie to find out whose plan wins out.  Go, rent it now!

As I have already said, what makes this film a great discussion piece is its underlying theology.  Consider some of the following conversation starters taken directly from the movie.  God has a plan for people, and he uses angels to make “adjustments” in their paths to keep them on track.  Or, the notion that free will is really just an illusion.  Or maybe, God actually gives people free will to choose “little things” but He takes care of the “big things” of life.  Or, try this other variation proposed by the film: God used to stay out of things in this world, but then we had the “Dark Ages.”  He stepped back in to “adjust” humanity, and then we had the Enlightenment and Renaissance.  After that, he left humans to themselves again, but they screwed things up again, creating the World Wars and the Great Depression.  A fascinating view of history, wouldn’t you say?  Finally, by the end of the movie, we are treated to the theological view that God’s meddling in our lives is just a big series of tests to see if we will learn to live rational lives.  Then, in the future, maybe, just maybe, God won’t have to design the plans for humans anymore; he could again trust us to design the plans ourselves!

Yes, there are some (very) partial truths in there–that’s why The Adjustment Bureau is such a great movie to watch and think through.  Unfortunately, there’s one BIG truth missing in this Who’s in charge here? film: The goodness of God.  A God who is sovereign and not good is just a dictatorial “chairman.”  A God who makes plans that thwart the so-called “good” desires of the human heart makes human beings much more good than God!

Praise the Lord that we don’t have to fear a controlling Chairman who is only about making things go according to his plan.  One of the movie’s taglines quips: “Fight for your fate.”  Thankfully, we don’t have to!   We serve a loving God whose plan for His people is perfect.  His children can rest in the comfort and joy that a redeeming God holds their futures in His hands and can be fully trusted to bring His plans to pass.  So, when we find ourselves “fighting” for our own plans, the solution is always to submit to an all-knowing, all-loving Lord, Master, and Chairman of our souls!

  1. […] discussion as many other sci-fi classics do? Minority Report, Inception, Blade Runner, Source Code, Adjustment Bureau: all of them use cool sci-fi plot devices to discuss deep things. Check the trailer and we will […]

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